Person A is trying to cut a tree with a dull saw for hours.
Person B passes by and asks: “Why don’t you sharpen your saw first?”
Person A replied: “I can’t do that. I don’t have time.”
You might laugh at Person A but I’m sure we’ve all done something like that in past. Most recently, for example, I myself was cutting a tree with a dull saw for a long time until I finally decided to sharpen it and reaped great results.
I started using this highly rated writing tool called “Ulysses” a month ago. When I first opened it, there was a section called “Introduction” there waiting for me to read but I did not. “It is just a writing tool. How complicated can it be?” Turns out that it was not the easiest to understand. The interface is simple but almost too simple. I was having trouble finding the usual editing tools and gadgets that I was familiar with in Microsoft Word and my other note-taking apps and they are nowhere to be found. So I had to copy and paste the content from this app to my WordPress website, and then do all the formatting on WordPress.
At the back of my mind, I was thinking “Maybe I should read the Introduction of Ulysses app. Maybe all my assumptions and confusions will be answered there.” But because this problem of me trying to figure things out on my own was not acute enough compared with my other “urgent and important tasks”, I never bothered to take actions on it.
A week ago, I finally got some time to check out the Introduction part of Ulysses. After I read through it, I quickly understood the idea this app is promoting. It is intentionally designed to help writers focus on writing/typing and not to worry about anything else such as formatting, inserting media, or uploading their content. It is such a simple concept but it makes so much sense! There is a state of “flow” that I try to get into whenever I am doing any “deep work”. I know how hard it takes me to get there and once I get there, I do not want anything to interfere with my process especially when it comes to creative work like writing. That’s why formatting and editing should really be the least of my concern.
I am glad that I did check out the Introduction eventually. I also wish that I had done that in the beginning. It really would have saved so much of my time.
Another example of me not being able to sharpen my saw would be my Weekly Review. I have not been able to do it for a few weeks. Now I am starting to see the impact. I feel easily overwhelmed, much less in control, and much less organized. I was not able to follow this weekly routine on Friday afternoons because there was always some other things that need my immediate attention. In reality, I’ve come to a point where it is no longer a question of if I can afford to block off my calendar and spend time checking in with myself, but it has become more like a question of if I can afford not to do it now. I realized that the level of my clarity and productivity depends on it. If I take the time to sharpen the saw, I know I can be much more effective at my work and in life.
Sometimes it is about improving yourself every once in a while, other times it is about honing your craft daily. One of the reasons why I am able to grow and improve so fast is because I take the time to reflect and learn from my lessons and sharpen my insights every single day. I write morning pages daily to set free my inner demons, I meditate daily to practice taking control of my thoughts and emotions, I keep an evening journal daily to record my wins and lessons learned, and I use my weekly blog posts to get better at writing and checking on my weekly goals. I know the value of consistent self-reflecting so I make sure I do that.
Not only do I try to improve my mind daily, I also do the same for my body. I work out in the gym six days every week and batch cook my own food twice a week to train my body and improve my lifestyle. I know that the quality of my life heavily depends on the quality of my physical health so I am always going to make time for it.
Find the area of your life that needs more of your attention, take time to sharpen your saw or up your game, even if it means that you need to temporarily slow down your current pace. You will know that it is worth the time spent because once the saw is all sharp and shinning, you will gain your investment back and more by being more effective.